Life Sentence

Tue 13th – Sat 17th November 2012


Sorcha Kurien-Walsh

at 23:59 on 13th Nov 2012



From Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” to Woody Allen’s contemporary neurotics, substantive work has been inspired by hypochondriacs. Jamie Carragher has contributed to this tradition, and it is everything you would want from a piece of New Writing; very funny, well-performed and tightly-written. “Life Sentence” tells the story of Theo Irving, a young hypochondriac who is diagnosed with hypochondria. Bereft at the experiences he will now miss- namely dying and retroactive praise- he enlists the help of his friends to console him, with farcical results.

Although relatively short, Carragher’s script is dense with jokes, all of which are done justice by the excellent cast. Charlie Dennis, as Theo’s pompous and yet absent doctor, is excellent- as is Will Hislop in his role as Theo’s dumb best friend. Carragher is described in the programme as a comedian, and the show’s strengths lie in its comedy. However, it is a pity that the “straight” scenes are less assured, and in some cases painfully generic- a confrontation between Theo and his parents for instance borders on the clichéd. Carragher is clearly a talented writer, but whilst “Life Sentence” delivers on its promise to “turn tragedy into comedy”, the former lacks substance and interrogation. For all his bombast, Theo never really says anything new or interesting about hypochondria, or even the much mentioned “human condition”. Theo bares a surface resemblance to the moodily complex angry young men of plays past. He is angry, and only partially sympathetic- which would be forgivable if he were not also tedious.

Although much fun is had at Theo’s expense, he is also grating; Nick Lyons is understandably hampered by a role which runs the gamut of emotions from whiny to shouty. However, these problems did not hinder my enjoyment during the performance; Carragher has chosen a difficult subject for his first play in Oxford, and the result is a delight.


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